"Control Me" Syndrome

This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.


Some people just feel more comfortable when they give the responsibility for making decisions to others. There are a variety of reasons someone may feel this way:

They feel less successful than others;
They feel less capable than others;
Others project an air of confidence or authority;
Others appear more successful;
Feelings of shame from past mistakes; or
Fearing humiliation from making new mistakes.

Taking a passive “control-me” approach is a dangerous strategy for a number of reasons:

  • Other people make mistakes.
  • Certain people with Personality Disorders, including narcissists, controllers and other people who “act-out” are often attracted to “Control-Me” personalities.
  • Adopting a passive approach to decision making often leads to a passive-aggressive attitude towards problem solving.
  • It is also important to realize that when you give control over decision making to another, you have not really given up control so much as you have chosen to delegate control to another. This means that you are somewhat responsible for the outcome.

Examples of "Control Me" Syndrome

  • A woman tends to get into relationships with men who will tell her what to do.
  • A man will not leave an abusive relationship unless someone he regards as an authority figure gives him permission to do it.
  • A young woman is relieved to move out and escape from her abusive home, immediately gets involved with an abusive boyfriend.

People who go through life with a "control me" strategy typically find themselves disappointed with the results as they stagger from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. They may find themselves repeatedly in abusive situations or trapped in relationships that do not serve their best interests. They often hook up with people who have a "Control-You" syndrome.

What it feels like

If you are in a relationship with a person who has “control me” syndrome, you may be flattered by their apparent trust in you. You may also end up feeling frustrated by the burden of additional responsibility. Disappointments will inevitably come and mistakes will inevitably be made. When they do, you may feel like you are being blamed for something that should have been somebody else’s responsibility in the first place.

If you have the symptoms of “control me” syndrome, you may enjoy the short cut of putting the responsibility onto another, but you may also become frustrated when they inevitably let you down.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t accept the blame for someone else’s bad choices.
  • Don’t fix a problem for another person who is capable of fixing it themselves.
  • Don’t clean up another person’s messes for them.
  • Don’t give in to a guilt trip or obligation to be responsible for another adult who can take care of themselves.

What TO Do

  • Take responsibility for your own decisions and choices.
  • Politely walk away from “no-win” situations and relationships where you are given responsibility with no power.
  • Surround yourself with supportive friends who will encourage you when you are under pressure.
  • Fill your life with a healthy balance of work, rest and recreation.